Heading into the 2022-23 NHL season, many believed that the Seattle Kraken would be better in Year 2 than they’d been in Year 1. Few predicted they’d make the postseason. Fewer still predicted they would be on the precipice of the Western Conference finals.
To reach that level, they’ll need to win the next two games, and the Dallas Stars have their own plans in mind — namely, making the conference final round themselves. With a win in Seattle on Saturday night (7 ET, ESPN), the Stars will do just that.
Before the two teams take the ice at Climate Pledge Arena, let’s get you prepped. We’ve put together a guide on what to watch from each team, including keys to victory from Ryan S. Clark and in-depth statistical insights from ESPN Stats & Information.
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Line: DAL -155 | O/U: 6
Clark’s keys to victory
Kraken must find consistency in net
Goaltending was already the looming issue facing the Kraken, and what happened in their past two games has reignited those concerns, with Philipp Grubauer allowing nine goals in his past two starts.
It’s a contrast from how Grubauer performed in the first round, in which he was one of primary reasons the Kraken upset the reigning Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in seven games. He finished that series with a 2.31 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage.
Fast-forward to what’s happened against the Stars. Grubauer has had only one game in which he has allowed fewer than two goals. For the series, Grubauer has a 4.21 GAA and a .858 SV% in five games. His teammates must play better, too.
“You give them odd-man rushes, you give them looks like that — they’re a good team, they’ve got a lot of offensive players, and they’re going to score,” Kraken forward Jordan Eberle said after Game 5. “That’s the frustrating part. We have to find a way to continue to play aggressively without giving them grade-A chances.”
Creating more scoring chances — and executing on them
Think back to what the Kraken did when they opened the series with a 5-4 overtime win in Game 1. One of the reasons they won stems from the high concentration of shots, scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances they generated in that victory.
Since then, those opportunities have been harder to find. Especially when looking at the Kraken’s underlying metrics over the past two games and how those figures compare to their overall postseason composite. On the whole, the Kraken are seventh in shots in 5-on-5 play at 29.47 per game, they’re ninth in high-danger chances in 5-on-5 play at 11.13 per game, and are last in scoring chances in 5-on-5 play at 24.46 per game.
Games 4 and 5 were even worse; the Kraken averaged 21.5 shots per game in 5-on-5 play in that time, in addition to an average of 17 scoring chances and just eight high-danger scoring chances per game.
“We’ve got to be a little bit more patient so that we’re not giving up the transition plays that we did and have to be harder to generate a little more at the other end of the rink,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said after Game 5. “They did a really good job of making it hard to get inside and hard to get to their net. They were good in that area tonight.”
Stars will look to own the ‘big period’
Every playoff series has its trademark tendency. And at this point, it appears as if the Stars might have mastered the one trait that has come to define this particular second-round series: one team exploding for multigoal periods.
For the Stars, it started in Game 2 when they scored three goals in the second period in a 4-2 win to tie the series. They tied the series upon scoring four goals in the second period in the 6-3 win that allowed them to draw level for a second time in Game 4.
Game 5 was somewhat different in that the Stars scored two goals in both the first and third periods. It’s what propelled the Stars to a 5-2 win while fending off a late surge from the Kraken.
“We battled hard. We didn’t have great legs. A 3-0 lead in hockey is a really tough lead,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. “They other team has nothing to lose, and they poured it on, their defenseman was up the ice the rest of the night. Put a lot of pressure on us. You have to win all different types of ways in playoff games, and I was proud of our group.”
Let Roope Hintz cook
Joe Pavelski scoring four goals in Game 1 came with its own sense of appreciation; it was his first game back after being concussed in Round 1. But it also provided some cause for concern considering he was the only Stars player who scored in the first game of the series.
It’s possible the Stars might have found a solution. They had four different scorers in Game 2, and are now a win away from the Western Conference finals as they’ve had six players combine to score 11 goals over the past two games.
Roope Hintz is one of those people who has been at the heart of that offensive barrage. He finished Game 5 with a one-goal, three-point performance that did more than see the Stars take a 3-2 series lead. Hintz’s effort is why he entered Friday tied with Edmonton Oilers superstar center and 2020 Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl for the postseason lead in points with 18.
“He’s dynamic. He’s a workhorse and does everything for us, kills penalties, on the power play, first-line minutes — he does everything,” Stars forward Jason Robertson said. “He’s well respected in our lineup, we know what he brings, we know what he’s going to continue to do. He’s very skilled, very fast and he’s definitely one of our best scorers on the team.”
Notes from ESPN Stats & Information
The Kraken will not want to fall behind early, as they have just one comeback win this postseason, are 0-3 when trailing after one period and are 0-4 when trailing after two.
Scoring depth has carried over into the postseason for the Kraken. They have 18 players with at least one goal, the most of any team. The most a team has had in a single season in NHL history is 21, by the 1986-87 Flyers and 2018-19 Bruins.
Of those 18 players, six are defensemen. That is the most by any team in the 2023 playoffs, and just one shy of tying multiple teams for the most in a single postseason in NHL history.
Jared McCann recorded his first goal of the playoffs in Game 5 for the Kraken. He was a vital player in the Kraken’s run to the playoffs. During the regular season, the Kraken were 24-7-3 in games in which McCann scored a goal.
Kraken goaltender Philipp Grubauer has given up 36 goals in 12 starts this postseason. His 36 goals against are the most among all goalies, and six more than the next players on the list (Stuart Skinner and Jake Oettinger, both with 30).
The Stars scored five or more goals in consecutive playoff games for just the third time in Dallas team history; they also did so in 2020 (three straight games from Game 6 of Round 1 through Game 2 of Round 2) and 2019 (Games 4 and 5 of Round 1).
On the other end of the ice, the Stars are allowing an average of 3.00 goals against per game, the second-best average among remaining playoff teams, behind the Hurricanes at 2.60.
Defenseman Miro Heiskanen has recorded eight assists in 11 playoff games this season. He is now tied with Ray Bourque for the fifth-most playoff assists (32) by a defenseman before turning 24 in NHL history. The most is 50, by Paul Coffey.
Joe Pavelski has been on a tear with seven goals this postseason, tied for third among all players. Pavelski sits just one goal shy of tying Martin St. Louis (eight in 2014) and Johnny Bucyk (eight in 1974) for the most by a player age 38 or older in a single postseason in NHL history.
Pavelski is also now the oldest player in NHL history to score seven goals in a series. Maurice Richard previously held the distinction (seven in 1958) at 36 years old. The most goals by any American-born player in a single playoff series is eight, by three players: Jake Guentzel (2022 Round 1), R.J. Umberger (2008 conference semifinals) and Pat LaFontaine (1992 division semifinals).